Songs About Hating Work

Musicians write songs about happy and sad occasions, love and loss, and sometimes about going to parties. But the power of music can make songs about missing someone who died hit harder than just about any other subject. Here are some of the best ones.

1. “I Still Can’t Say Goodbye” by Tommy Emmanuel

“I Still Can’t Say Goodbye” by Tommy Emmanuel

Song Year: 2005

Tommy Emmanuel is one of the greatest guitarists of all time, but “I Still Can’t Say Goodbye” isn’t a shred-fest. Emmanuel sings about how he always wanted to be like his dad. Even though he’s gone now, Emmanuel still tries to emulate his old man. It’s a heartbreaker.

2. “Candle in the Wind” by Elton John

Song Year: 1973

“Candle in the Wind” was never a radio single, though it has long been a fan favorite.

The song mourns the difficult life of Marilyn Monroe, and when Princess Diana died, Sir Elton reconfigured it as a tribute to her called “Goodbye England’s Rose.” He sang it at her funeral and had a worldwide number-one hit with it in 1997.

3. “Go Rest High On That Mountain” by Vince Gill

Song Year: 1995

Originally conceived as a ballad to mourn the death of guitar legend Keith Whitley, “Go Rest High On That Mountain” was a song Vince Gill had trouble finishing until the death of his own brother. Combining both men’s struggles, Gill combined poignant lyrics of love and loss with a heartrending melody.

Even avid haters of country music have to admit that this is a beautiful song.

4. “I’ll Be Missing You” by Puff Daddy feat. Faith Evans & 112

Song Year: 1997

When rapper Notorious B.I.G. was murdered in 1997, he left a huge hole in the world of hip-hop. For some reason, that compelled Puff Daddy to sample “Every Breath You Take” by the Police— the most-played song in the history of radio— without asking for permission. What, no one was going to recognize that guitar riff?

Is it a sentimental song about missing someone who died? It is. Did Sting sue for 100 percent of the royalties and win? He did. Is it weird to take a song about an obsessed stalker and turn it into a hymn to brotherly love? It is.

5. “Let It Be” by The Beatles

Song Year: 1970

Sir Paul McCartney was a long way from being a musical icon when his mother died. He was only 14 when an embolism took her, but as The Beatles were falling apart, he had a dream about her.

In his waking hours, as the band was falling apart, McCartney was tense, agitated, and anxious. He said that one night, he fell asleep feeling all those things only to have his mother, Mary, appear to him in a dream and tell him that everything was going to be okay.

Sir Paul woke the next morning and wrote the song, basing the lyrics on his mom’s words.

6. “Tears In Heaven” by Eric Clapton

Song Year: 1992

Conor Clapton was just four years old when he fell from a 53rd-story apartment window. His dad, guitar god Eric Clapton, did the only thing he could in the face of overwhelming grief— he wrote a song about it.

Losing anyone to death is hard. Losing a child is unthinkable. The tragedy drove Clapton’s creativity, and he produced a piece of music that was a worldwide number-one and snagged him three Grammys.

7. “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa feat. Charlie Puth

Song Year: 2015

Paul Walker, star of the Fast and the Furious films, died in a car accident in 2013. When the seventh film of the franchise was in post-production, the filmmakers wanted a tribute song for the credits.

Charlie Puth had lost a friend to a motorcycle accident, and he tapped into that grief to write his part of the song. Other contributions came from DJ Frank E, Wiz Khalifa, and Andrew Cedar, and Wiz rapped between Puth’s singing.

8. “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion

“My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion

Song Year: 1997

We tell ourselves things so we can handle other things. “My Heart Will Go On,” written by the late film composer James Horner for the worldwide phenomenon that was the movie Titanic, is about doing just that. Even after death, love never dies.

Two fun facts:

  • Celine Dion didn’t want to record the song.
  • The version we heard in the film was Dion’s first take.

Lastly, we all know there was room for Jack on that door. We know it, Rose, and so do you.

9. “Wake Me Up When September Ends” by Green Day

Song Year: 2004

Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong’s father died in early September of 1982 when Armstrong was just 10 years old. After the funeral, he locked himself in his room and, so the story goes, commanded his worried mom to wake him when the month was over.

So came to be the title of Green Day’s top-ten hit. It’s poignant and does a terrific job of putting the listener into the headspace Armstrong enters every year when the anniversary of his father’s death approaches.

Anyone who’s suffered loss can identify, which helps explain the song’s universal appeal.

10. “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor

Song Year: 1970

“Fire and Rain” is not about a woman who died in a plane crash. The Suzanne that James Taylor mentions in the song was a friend who committed suicide just as Taylor’s music career was taking off, and his family kept the news from him so he wouldn’t get distracted.

The song also deals with Taylor’s personal struggles with addiction, so it’s not strictly a song about missing someone who’s passed away, but that first verse hits pretty hard.

11. “Ordinary World” by Duran Duran

Song Year: 1992

Simon Le Bon’s lyrics for Duran Duran songs are notoriously abstract. Duran Duran bassist John Taylor still famously has no idea what “Hungry Like the Wolf” is about, but “Ordinary World” is hard to misinterpret.

Le Bon sings about often forgetting that a lost loved one is gone, sometimes imagining that he hears the person talking in the other room before realizing that’s impossible. The work he does in the song is in his effort to figure out how to get back to something like normalcy in the wake of loss.

12. “Dance With My Father” by Luther Vandross

Song Year: 2003

Another terrific piece of music about losing a parent too soon, Luther Vandross’ “Dance With My Father” dealt not only with the death of Vandross’ dad when the singer was only seven but also with feelings that the song’s co-writer, Richard Marx, knew, as his father had died a few years before the pair wrote the song.

“Dance With My Father” has that sense of longing we all know in the face of death— that bargain we offer to the universe about how we’d give up everything if we could just have a few more minutes with the one we’ve lost.

13. “The Greatest Man I Never Knew” by Reba McEntire

Song Year: 1991

Death is hard enough on those left behind, but it’s so much worse when there’s unfinished business. That’s the idea behind Reba McEntire’s huge hit, “The Greatest Man I Never Knew.” The song is about the narrator’s father, an emotionally withdrawn man who had trouble showing his children his love for them.

As a result, after he dies, the narrator realizes that she didn’t know much about him since he never opened up to anyone. The song ends with the sad assumption that even though he never told the narrator he loved her, maybe he assumed she knew.

14. “Last Kiss” by Pearl Jam

Song Year: 1999

Pearl Jam covered a 1961 song by a crooner named Wayne Cochran, who was inspired by the true tale of two Georgia teens killed in a traffic accident while on a date.

The narrator watches his beloved die after a car crash, but it’s clear in the song that even before she stops breathing, he recognizes what’s happening and misses her even before she’s gone.

15. “Drink A Beer” by Luke Bryan

Song Year: 2013

Chris Stapleton helped write Luke Bryan’s “Drink a Beer,” a song about losing someone unexpectedly. While death is always tough for those left behind, it’s arguably a little easier when you know it’s coming, like with an extended illness. But a surprise loss— a car accident or something similar— can be much more difficult.

The narrator has suffered such a loss and was self-soothing by doing what he and the deceased would have done together— sit down, have a beer, and chill out— only this time, by himself.

16. “No One But You (Only The Good Die Young)” by Queen

“No One But You (Only The Good Die Young)” by Queen

Song Year: 1999

When the world lost Freddie Mercury to AIDS-related complications, we felt the loss deeply. But the members of Queen, who were arguably the closest to the singer, felt it exponentially more than we did.

Guitarist Brian May penned the song in the aftermath of the death of Princess Diana, but it’s so much a song about the loss of Mercury and anyone else we lose too soon.

17. “Heaven” by Beyoncé

Song Year: 2013

People often console themselves in the wake of loss with sentiments involving the deceased being in a better place. Beyoncé’s “Heaven” takes that tack in an effort, according to Queen Bey herself, to find some closure.

Beyoncé drew inspiration for the song, which she co-wrote, from the death of her mother’s best friend. The artist saw the effect the loss had on her mom and could identify with it since we’ve almost all suffered some loss in our lives.

18. “Joanne” by Lady Gaga

Song Year: 2017

Lady Gaga has written some incredibly personal music. Her 2009 song “Speechless” addressed her father’s drinking, and in “Joanne,” we get a look into the reasons why he drank. Joanne was his big sister, and she died at age 19 when Gaga’s dad was 15. The loss hit him hard, and according to the songwriter, he drank as a result of his anger at the unfairness of the loss.

It’s a country song (odd coming from the “Born This Way” singer, but the girl’s got range), and its plaintiveness makes it all that much sadder.

19. “You Should Be Here” by Cole Swindell

Song Year: 2015

Cole Swindell was on the road when an accident killed his father. “You Should Be Here” catalogs the country singer’s sorrow over the loss, and it even starts with a heartbreaking recording of the two men speaking on the phone, laughing and cutting up.

The pain in the song isn’t just that the elder Swindell is gone but that he has missed so many highlights in the singer’s life and career. The idea is that in death, he’s missing so many things he’d have loved to see.

20. “Beloved” by Mumford and Sons

Song Year: 2018

“Beloved” is about missing someone before they’re even gone. Inspired by the loss of frontman Marcus Mumford’s grandmother, in the song, Mumford sits at the bedside of his dying relative. He does his best to make sure she knows, before she shuffles off her mortal coil, how much she has meant to him.

He looks to the future and acknowledges how there will always be an empty place in his life once she’s gone.

21. “Lay Me Down” by Sam Smith feat. John Legend

Song Year: 2014

Just about any song that’s slow with some gospel overtones can tug at the heartstrings. Add the distinctive and emotional voices of Sam Smith and John Legend, and you’ve got something truly mournful.

“Lay Me Down” is about missing a loved one and, like many songs in the oeuvre, wishing for just a little more time with the one who is lost in death.

22. “Wish U Were Here” by Jamie Foxx

Song Year: 2005

Fathers can be powerful parts of our lives, so it’s no surprise that the exact number of songs about losing them to death is hard to pin down.

Jamie Foxx is a movie star, but he also recorded Unpredictable in 2005 to show the world that he’s quite a singer, too. He applies his acting ability to his performances on the album, and “Wish U Were Here” benefits from it as he mourns and misses his father.

23. “Miss U” by The Notorious B.I.G.

Song Year: 1997

For all his outsized influence on the world of hip-hop, The Notorious B.I.G. only released two albums before his untimely death.

The song, from his last work, features a laid-back beat as Biggie raps about so many people who die young— people caught up in dangerous lifestyles. The overarching theme isn’t one of castigation but resignation. Some people born to hood life have no choice, making it even sadder when we lose them.

24. “Black Gives Way to Blue” by Alice In Chains

Song Year: 2009

In a hugely personal move, Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell wrote “Black Gives Way to Blue” as a tribute to Layne Staley, Alice’s lead singer until his 2002 death.

The song is reminiscent of much of the music from Jar of Flies, but it’s still an unusual track. Elton John plays piano on it, and he and Cantrell provide lyrics to a song about bearing up under the pain until the blackness of grief lightens at least a little.

25. “One More Day” by Diamond Rio

Song Year: 2000

When people get granted wishes in stories, they ask for fame, love, money, and the like. In the dream that the narrator of “One More Day” has, he’s granted one wish and asks only for some additional time with his beloved.

While there’s no overt reference to the death of the narrator’s partner, the longing for more time implies that she has died. After all, even in the face of the bitterest split, there’s still a possibility for people to reunite. Not so with the death of a loved one.

26. “Together Again” by Janet Jackson

“Together Again” by Janet Jackson

Song Year: 1997

Janet Jackson lost a friend to death and wanted to write a tribute that wasn’t a maudlin wallowing in grief. The result, “Together Again,” celebrates those who lose and tries to focus on the good memories instead of the pain of loss.

The lyrics make reference to that phenomenon we often experience where everything reminds us of our lost loved one, but instead of dwelling on the sadness, Jackson’s lyrics discuss embracing those moments.

27. “Missing You” by Diana Ross

Song Year: 1984

Much of “Missing You” feels like a song about missing a partner who has walked away from the relationship. The pain of loss rhymes— losing someone to a breakup isn’t the same as losing them to death, but it’s close— so it’s sometimes unclear why Ross is missing someone.

However, a reference to a flower being plucked indicates that death has ended the relationship.

28. “Really Gonna Miss You” by Smokey Robinson

Song Year: 2005

While things will be irreparably different in the wake of the narrator’s friend, the lyrics of Smokey Robinson’s “Really Gonna Miss You” take comfort in the hope that the deceased is in a better place.

Meanwhile, the narrator remains behind to mourn.

29. “These Three Words” by Stevie Wonder

Song Year: 1991

“These Three Words” is more of a preventative song. It asks people to make sure they tell their loved ones what they mean to them. Stevie Wonder doesn’t mourn a specific person, but he sings about the possibility we face of sudden loss.

The song encourages people to tell each other how they feel in an effort to cut down on the regret that might follow the death of a loved one.

30. “One Sweet Day” by Marah Carey and Boyz II Men

Song Year: 1995

Many people deal with loss by looking forward to “One Sweet Day,” when they’ll be reunited in the afterlife with the one they’ve lost. That’s the idea behind this smash-hit collaboration between two of the biggest acts of the 1990s.

Carey and the gentlemen from Boyz II Men make a convincing case for holding on to this idea during the pain of grief.

31. “My Old Man” by Zac Brown Band

“My Old Man” by Zac Brown Band

Song Year: 2017

Zac Brown’s narrator misses his father, who passed away some time ago. He recalls the good and bad times (and recognizes the lessons from those bad times). He also holds a picture of his dad in his head, complete with dirty overalls.

Now a father himself, the narrator sees that his son will eventually suffer the same loss. It sounds sappy on paper, but the song is actually quite lovely and touching.

Top Songs About Missing Someone Who Died, Final Thoughts

Music can be a powerful tool to help us process emotions, and the big ones associated with the death of a loved one need a lot of processing. Musicians have been eulogizing lost loved ones for millennia, and these songs about missing someone who died run the gamut of ways to deal with the pain of loss.

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